It’s hard to say which one might be worse for Schroder. On one side, Thomas was in the midst of having a career night, scoring 42 points to help the Boston Celtics get on the board with a 111-103 win and trim the Atlanta Hawks' lead to 2-1 in this best-of-seven series.
But on the other side, Schroder had his coach upset over what Budenholzer might have initially thought was his emotional point guard losing his cool and getting caught up in unnecessary trash talking.
Schroder and Thomas were going at each other in the first quarter, resulting in double technical fouls with 1:27 left in the quarter. Moments before that, Thomas took a shot at Schroder’s face as they went back down court after a score.
Budenholzer did not initially see Thomas’ shot at Schroder, but he did see how his backup point guard reacted and how he was engaged emotionally and verbally with Thomas. The league would later assess Thomas with a flagrant one foul on Saturday, but no suspension for the incident.
“[Initially] he was kind of [ticked] off at me during the game,” Schroder said of Budenholzer. “But then he apologized. He couldn’t see [the Thomas incident].
“I talked back [to Thomas] and [Budenholzer] didn’t see the situation that happened before,” Schroder continued. “He don’t like that kind of play. He wants me to compete and that I don’t talk back.”
Now that Thomas won’t be suspended and the incident is behind them, the Hawks go into Game 4 looking for Schroder to be as aggressive as he was in Game 3 but without overstepping the emotional line.
He scored 20 points off the bench, hitting 8 of 14 shots, and put consistent pressure on the Celtics' defense. Schroder attacked the rim and helped the Hawks erase a 19-point deficit in the third quarter.
Budenholzer knows that Schroder, 22, can feed off emotion like he did on Friday night, not only from the incident with Thomas but also the hostile Boston crowd.
He just wants Schroder to be able to control his emotions and be professional, too.
“Dennis is great because he is so competitive and I think he brings a great edge to our team,” Budenholzer said. “He and I walk this fine line, or a little bit of a dance. I think there is a way to compete and keep your focus and go out and obviously you want to have success.
“And there is a way that we would like our team to handle ourselves and to be ultra-competitive, but I would say ultra-classy and ultra-professional,” Budenholzer continued. “I think Dennis, as a young player, is just learning that balance, and at some point I probably have to give him a little leash and that is part of what makes him a really good player. But he knows how we want to conduct and handle ourselves.”
Schroder said he felt “disrespected” by Thomas but he vows it won’t affect him in Game 4.
“It happened,” Schroder said. “I still feel disrespected [over] what he did, [but] I still will try to win the game tomorrow and focus on the game. … [Thomas] is competitive, too. Tomorrow will be a different game.”